Play to question ‘Yale values’

After four years as a student at Yale, poet and self-described activist Kenneth Reveiz ’12 said he wants to use a new play to express his view that Yale inducts undergraduates into a hegemonic system and rewards limited styles of creative expression.

“People [at Yale] want antiquity, neoclassicism, pastoral fetishism, which are so entwined with a class and race that I am not that it’s just not possible that I can buy into them,” Reveiz said.

“OSAMA PLAY,” which Reveiz wrote last year and said he hoped to stage before graduating, goes up this Saturday and Sunday at the Jonathan Edwards College Theater. Constructing the play in a non-narrative form that features scenes with characters including Osama bin Laden, bin Laden’s wife and a tomato, Reveiz said he specifically selected a cast of actors from relatively under-represented groups, such as queer people and people of color.

The show is more “noticeably political” than other plays produced at Yale, which may be political in nature but remain aligned with dominant power structures, Reveiz said.

“I think [other] Yale theater [productions], even the Control Group, reproduces the hegemony of which Yale is a part, whether they like it or not, whether they think so or not,” he added. “This is about leaving Yale having articulated what I thought was wrong about it.”

Gabriel DeLeon ’13, the director of the play, said that observing New Haven politics and exploring his identity as a queer person have given him an increased awareness of overarching social forces, in turn enabling him to better grasp the issues “OSAMA PLAY” spotlights.

“I wouldn’t have understood the point of this production until my junior year,” he added.

Reveiz said that in order to articulate his own dissatisfaction with systems of power and consumption in the world as it stands, he chose to create a “humanized” version of Osama bin Laden as his lead character. A key issue in the script is socioeconomic class, he added, which Reveiz said is both a determinant of one’s place in society and an issue that Yalies in particular shy away from discussing.

DeLeon said the prevailing Yale lifestyle promotes a high level of consumerism and an ignorance of other class experiences.

“We’re playing down the amount of terrorism Osama has done in history, and comparing it to our interactions with other people, which embody everyday terrorism,” Nicholas Leingang ’13, who portrays Osama, said.

Leingang added that “OSAMA PLAY” is unique compared to other productions he has acted in because it is being put up by a group of people who are themselves members of marginalized groups.

“Queer people, people of color and freshmen were particularly encouraged to audition,” Reveiz said, adding that in a Yale theater scene that does not regularly feature these groups, the play can help them gain a space in the cultural discourse on campus. DeLeon, for instance, was selected to direct the play because he and Reveiz are “on the same page aesthetically, ideologically and even politically.”

DeLeon said that casting involved finding both the best actors to convey Reveiz’s message and selecting individuals already aligned with a “radical energy.”

The show’s producer, Wilfredo Ramos Jr. ’15, said “OSAMA PLAY” changes the circumstances of the character Leingang described as “the ultimate villain” to convey a challenge to capitalism. Using a character “grounded in myth,” DeLeon said, may be scandalous, but it also extends human treatment to the slain terrorist.

The play explores Osama’s legacy in the American public, Leingang said, causing audiences to question the idea of straight white males controlling the world.

Reveiz said that “OSAMA PLAY” aims to inspire a recognition of what individuals can do differently to actively create a society they want to be part of.

DeLeon said that audience confrontation, a deconstructivist palette and casting actors that look very different from the characters they are meant to portray help convey the playwright’s message. In the course of the show, everyone in the theater becomes aware of their place in society, DeLeon said.

Ramos said that the style of the production reminds him of the current craze for “devised theater” in his native Chicago, a style that prioritizes free-form improvisation and interaction with the audience.

“OSAMA PLAY” is Reveiz’s first play to be staged at Yale.

Comments

  • Catherine08

    Hooray for pastoral fetishism! I’ve always wondered what my problem was called.

  • theantiantiyale

    “I think [other] Yale theater [productions], even the Control Group, reproduces the hegemony of which Yale is a part, whether they like it or not, whether they think so or not”

    Careful, Reviez. You just told some hipsters that they are part of “the man.”

    • joshevans

      haha actually I totally agree with kenneth, control group does in certain ways reproduce this hegemony. it doesn’t really examine itself in this light; and perhaps not enough.

  • YaleMom

    My daughter Ashley was just telling me that tomatoes were underrepresented at Yale.

    You go, Kenny!

    • The Anti-Yale

      I love your contributions, YaleMom.

      PK

  • Jess

    THIS IS GOING TO BE SO GREAT

  • DLee

    I think it is pretentious to claim to know better than anyone what hegemony at Yale means and then creating what they think is an “anti-” piece of theater. The playwright would do well to see more theater at Yale and realize that the majority of it isn’t about “antiquity, neoclassicism, and pastoral fetishism.”
    Whether they like it or not, Yale tends to be a pretty open place. This play may be “radical” for University of Idaho or University of Alabama, but not Yale and in fact reiterates the values that a solid majority of people here have. One in Four sir–and this is the Ivy League. This is not a novel idea.

    • Jess

      “Gay” is not a synonym for “radical.”

  • KennethReveiz

    Thanks for your comment, DLee.

    This clarification might help: When I mentioned “antiquity, neoclassicism, and pastoral fetishism”, I was referring to them as being valued tropes in undergraduate and graduate poetry at Yale (both in writing and literary study). I do think that this is true, though it also seems less true than it was when I first started living in New Haven. I know very well that the same does not hold true for plays–just as it does not hold true for fiction, visual art, and film here.

    As regards your claim that OSAMA PLAY is “anti-” theater, I’ve never said that about this piece. The play is neither anti- theater nor can it be situated in the historical category of “anti-theater”. The play, like much of the poetry I value, is non-narrative, if that’s what you mean.

    You may also be doing a disservice to the U’s of I & A, about whose theater I know nothing. And even though I never used the word “radical”, nor do I even think that OSAMA PLAY is particularly radical, Jess does helpfully point out that “gay” is not “radical” (just as, in turn, “gay” is not “queer”). Gay undergraduates aren’t the ones running Yale, for example.

    That said, OSAMA PLAY’s main concern has perhaps been misrepresented in the course of narrativizing a non-narrative work of art, something I always have trouble with. If at all, the piece is less concerned with challenging the values of Yale undergraduates than with proselytizing humanity (with relation to and often in conflict with personal and institutional responsibilities and dominant systems of power).

    The play may challenge you, or not at all, but I do encourage you to attend a performance and speak with me after the show if you have more thoughts. I’ll be the one in a diaper.

    • strauss1

      You’re exactly right. Mellifluous language and trenchant metaphor are so mainstream and overrated. Clearly the only acceptable poems are those consisting of utterly meaningless gibberish or the complete text of the author’s Facebook wall.

      Remember: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the white heterosexual upper-class cisgender able-bodied male problem.

      • KennethReveiz

        What is this, Put Words in Kenneth’s Mouth Day?

        “Mellifluous language and trenchant metaphor” are both things I highly value (when wielded at the right time).

        I also never made a claim to have a monopoly on what is “acceptable” in contemporary poetry. For instance, I’d go so far as to join you in saying I’m not the biggest fan of Conceptual Writing, though I am guilty of having a soft spot for meaningless gibberish.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “The play explores Osama’s legacy in the American public, Leingang said, causing audiences to question the idea of straight white males controlling the world.”

    God.
    Osama would be the first to castigate gay males as a satanic force: Of course straight males should run the world. Who ELSE?

    The hegemony of which Yale is a part?

    Yale is a many headed creature.

    Sure, it feasts on money, but it uses that money to pursue the truth, wherever that might lead—even to a critique of Yale itself—-even to nurturing a young playwright’s “OSAMA PLAY.”

    Ya gotta admire the crazy creature.

    It’s made itself wealthy enough with its endowment to bite the Wall Street hand that feeds it—-and still get served another meal by the same bleeding hand.

    Ave Swenson, morituri te salutant.

    PK

  • whydoIhaveaname

    Well. Not my cup of tea, but I guess I applaud the effort. The self-prosecuted and self-consciously peripheral artist shtick has always been one of my fav. creative archetypes.

    Is it just me or does anyone else have a viscerally negative response to art that comes with an instruction manual. Either you did it or ya didn’t. I’m all for “difficult art” that doesn’t immediately lend itself to appreciation but that’s not the same. If I wanted to have my art explained to me I’d watch something actually profound: Mystery Science Theater 3000.

  • JE15

    Wait…queer people are underrepresented in the Yale theatre scene?

  • public__editor

    Unless this is a comedy, it is absolutely disgusting. This guy killed thousands of people and is possibly the most evil man to exist in 21st century thus far.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6yLQRF-cEU&ob=av2n